Have an old boat that needs a makeover but you don’t want to pay for a paint job? A boat wrap is a cost-effective way to give your boat a fresh new look; they’re also great for adding protection or additional graphics to new boats.
Wraps come in many different designs and colors and are ideal for complex designs or advertising. You can either have the entire boat wrapped (which many don’t do), a large section from the midway point to the hull, or a simple stripe added.
In this post, I’ll break down everything you need to know to get started this weekend.
Why get your boat wrapped?
One of the best reasons to get a boat wrapped is to protect it from getting scratched or damaged. Vinyl boat wraps, in particular, also protect a boat’s gel coat from fading in the sun.
Beyond protection, boating wraps are quick to install and pretty affordable as mentioned earlier. Depending on the level of work, the wrapping can be finished anywhere between a few hours to a couple of days.
Some boat owners choose to get wraps for company branding or advertising, including private yacht services or businesses looking to stand out.
Painting vs wrapping a boat
It’s typically more affordable to wrap a boat than to paint it. For smaller boats under 14 feet in length, prices are pretty similar if adding a stripe or two, but painting is generally about 3x more expensive after all is said and done for larger boats that require more paint and clear coats.
Here are a few pros and cons of wrapping as opposed to painting a boat.
- Protects original paint
- Easy to remove
- More affordable than a paint job
- Can be installed yourself
- More customizable
- Vinyl wrap is not as bright as paint
- May rip easily in heat
- Doesn’t last as long in general
How long do boat wraps last?
Boat wraps made of vinyl usually last anywhere from 3 to 7 years under normal conditions. If you don’t apply protection to your wrap, expect fading to occur within the first couple of years.
Some manufacturers claim wraps can last up to 12 years, but I’ve yet to see a before and after photo of this!
How to protect a vinyl boat wrap
The best way to protect a vinyl wrap from fading is to cover it if possible; if this isn’t an option, use a spray-on sealant or wax regularly. Check out this post I wrote on CarWashCountry.com for a complete guide to cleaning and protecting a vinyl wrap.
The protection process for vinyl wraps is basically the same for boats as it is for cars. If you do experience minor damage, wraps can be repaired with a patch by the installer oftentimes.
How much does it cost to get a boat wrapped?
To wrap a boat, expect to pay somewhere around $7-$10 per square foot for materials alone, plus labor costs for a basic wrap, equating to somewhere between $1,000 and $1,500 for normal jobs.
For a 20 foot boat requiring 3 feet of wrap on both sides (90 square feet), this equates to around $900 in material costs alone. Because labor costs vary by state, there’s no one answer here.
The wrap quality and design also affect the cost; a wrap with graphics designs will cost you more than seeking a single wrap color.
3M, Avery Dennison, and KPMF are well-known boat wrap manufacturers to know about and most include a basic warranty when installed professionally. Be sure to read the fine print there, and check with your installer.
Factors that influence the price of a boat wrap:
- The shape of the hull
- Carbon, chrome, or other special finishes
- Wraps with fancier graphics like fish, flames, etc.
- Custom artwork or finishes
Depending on the size, expect to pay somewhere around $1,800 to $2,000 to have a 21-foot boat wrapped. Many companies specializing in boat wraps can give you a quote over a phone call.
Some sites like WakeGraphics.com even allow you to upload a custom logo or design to preview what things will look like. Be sure to have the specs of your boat and even a few photos ready for a consultation.
Boat wrap designs
Most boat wrapping companies have many different designs available for you to choose from. You might see anything from pattern designs to a fish in the ocean design. Look through a boat wrap company’s options to see if anything appeals to you.
Some boat wrap companies will even let you customize the existing designs they have to your liking. If you have your own specific design idea in mind, contact the boat wrap business to start discussing it with them.
How to prep a boat for a vinyl wrap
Be sure to remove any flaking paint from your boat before the wrap gets put on. The hull needs to be fared to prevent low and high spots from showing up under the vinyl.
It’s also a good idea to have hull fittings removed, but it can be possible to work around them. All scratches and bumps on the boat should also be removed. If they’re not, they’ll show through the vinyl wrapping.
DIY boat wrapping: yes or no?
If you’re considering doing a DIY boat wrap, it is doable if you have the expertise and can save you a bit of money. I would only recommend this route if your boat is on the smaller side, older, and you’re wrapping it yourself to save money.
Some boat owners found it easier than they thought it would be, while others found it difficult to do and said they wouldn’t do it again.
Material costs of vinyl boat wraps
If you decide to go the DIY route, you can find vinyl on Amazon as you can see here anywhere from $200 to over $500 per roll for a solid color. The size and complexity of the design will determine the cost of the vinyl.
Some companies like MarineSkins.com offer really cool designs that start at around 1,000 dollars and up. They do have DIY instructions available, but since the cost is much higher, I would highly recommend using a local installer. The last thing you want is to waste $2,000 after attempting it yourself.
There are boat wrapping companies that can mail you the wrap design you want to put on your boat.
This is what I would recommend if you already have a more affordable vinyl picked out. Any good installer will be able to apply it based on the dimensions of your watercraft.
If you do decide to wrap your boat yourself, you might find this video below helpful:
This process involves using knifeless tape and how to stretch the vinyl. If you are fairly detail-oriented, go for it, just know it will take some time and effort.
I can see a DIY wrap being a good option if you have an older boat not worth re-painting, since you can pick up these kits for
Once you’ve gotten your boat wrapped, make sure to practice proper maintenance. Get soft bumper covers or a fender to protect your boat wrap when you’re docking.
Even though you may think boat wrapping is a service found at the coast, many companies specializing in automotive wrapping also wrap boats.
Have anything else to add? Let me know in the comments!